You Credit Score: How's Your FICO?
Since we live in an automated world, it's not surprising that your ability to repay your mortgage boils down to just one number. Credit reporting agencies use your payment history in order to compile this score.
The three agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While the formulas vary, each agency uses the following to build your credit score:
- Credit History - How long have you had credit?
- Payment History - Have you paid more than 30 days late, and how often?
- Credit Card Balances - How many accounts? How much do you owe on your accounts?
- Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of lending you money?
These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The result is one number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher scores are better. Typical home buyers will likely find their FICO scores between 620 and 800.
Credit scores make a difference in interest rates
FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.
Improving your score
Is it possible to improve your credit score? Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. You must remove any incorrect reporting from your credit report; this is really the only "quick fix" for credit problems.
Getting your FICO score
In order to raise your FICO score, you must have the credit reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. For a reasonable fee, you can quickly get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are information and tools that can help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.
You can get a free credit report once a year from the three major credit reporting agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.
Armed with this info, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.